Gwen Ifill best known as the host of the PBS Newshour and Washington Week died today. She was 61 years old. Ifill was known as a pioneer in television news. As a woman she broke the glass ceiling in a world that was dominated by mostly white men.
According to a release from PBS, Ifill joined the Public Broadcasting System in 1999. She worked at many of the nation’s premiere newspapers including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Evening Sun and the Boston Herald American. Ifill also worked as chief congressional and political correspondent for NBC News.
Ifill covered seven presidential campaigns in her career and moderated two vice-presidential debates, according to PBS. In 2004, she moderated the debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards, and the 2008 debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin.
President Barack Obama commented on the death of Ifill at his first post election news conference from the White House saying “Whether she reported from a convention floor or from the field, whether she sat at the debate moderators table or at the anchors desk, she not only informed today’s citizens but she also inspired tomorrow’s journalists. She was especially a powerful role model for young women and girls who admired her integrity, her tenacity and her intellect, and for whom she blazed a trail as one half of the first all-female anchor team on network news.” Obama added, Gwen did her country a great service.”
Georgia U.S. Representative John Lewis issued the following statement on Ifill’s death: “This nation has lost one of its premier journalists. Gwen Ifill exemplified the highest standards of professional reporting.” He added, “Beyond her outstanding competence, Gwen Ifill was admired by her colleagues as a gracious, humble, magnanimous human being–rare qualities in a profession that requires ambition and persistence. She was a dear friend to me and to many. She will be deeply missed.”
PBS confirmed today that Ifill had been receiving cancer treatment prior to her death. In addition to being a well known and highly respected journalist Ifill was also an author. She wrote a book on President Obama titled, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama in 2009.